On Wednesday,Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Khiangte Lalramzauva both bid tearful adieu to Harjinder Singh,their coach at Chandigarh Football Academy. They boarded the train to Goa where they will join the other members of the Indian Under-19 football team and undergo preparation camp for the upcoming assignments.
In the last couple of years,Daniel and Lalramzauva,or Arjit for his teammates,have said goodbye to their coach on several occasions but those came while going away for national duties. This time they know it could be the final goodbye. With Harjinder set to retire from his stint as the chief coach of CFA at the end of April (unless the Chandigarh Administration offers him a post in the Sports Council),this could be the last time these two trainees of Chandigarh Football Academy would be seeing Harjinder as a coach. So,while boarding the train,their voice choked with emotion.
“We both will be going to attend the Under-19 camp and by the time we return,Harjinder sir would not be here. He would have retired. We owe everything to him. It is because of him that we are in the national team. It is quite an emotional moment for us,” said Daniel,his voice choking.
While emotions must be running high at the moment,both Daniel and Arjit know they cannot give in and must work hard to achieve the dreams: those dreams which Harjinder dared them to dream.
Both these players and Harjinder are at the crossroads of their lives. While Harjinder is contemplating sharing his knowledge about the game even after retirement,Daniel and Arjit are at the threshold of starting a new innings in their burgeoning careers.
“I don’t feel like retiring at all but I will have to do so with a heavy heart. I just cannot accept that they will not be able to train with me anymore. Both these players have been with the last six years and although they have a wonderful career waiting for them,I believe they still need me,” shared a visibly emotional Harjinder.
After enjoying a break of more than one month,many important assignments await both Daniel and Arjit. In the coming few months,the Indian Under-19 will compete in the 2014 AFC Championship Qaulifiers and try to get entry into the coveted tournament. Also,since the Under-19 and Under-21 age groups determine whether the player has it in them to play for the senior national team or not. A good performance in this age group,and particularly in the Qualifiers,will make their case stronger.
“Right from the Under-14 and then the Under-16 age categories,we have always played under the scrutinising eyes of the coaches and the selectors. We know a good performance is always appreciated and if somebody keeps on performaning,nobody can stop him from getting into the national team. So,whether it’s a camp or tournament or just another friendly tournament,we always strive to give our best,” said Arjit,who have led the Indian Under-16 team on number of occasions.
This quality- their demand and the desire to give their best shot everytime they are on the ground- have earned them praise from coach Colin Toal and other officials.
“I always get feedback from the coaches at Goa and I feel proud when they tell me how Daniel and Arjit have set an example for other players in the national team. That is for what I have been working all through these years. They are versatile players and that is why they are an asset to the team,” Harjinder praised his wards.
In 2006-07,when Daniel and Arjit- at the young age of ten-joined the Chandigarh Football Academy after successfully passing in the trials,even Harjinder didn’t know they would go on to become an intergral part of both the Chandigarh and national football teams.
With Chandigarh,they have won national titles and secured position at all the levels in the last two years while,in the case of national team,they are showing glimpses of future senior national players.
“The best thing about these players are that they are still improving and after developing themselves mentally and physically,they can become the very best. I am quite sure of that,” Harjinder said in a confident voice.
As for Daniel and Arjit,they might want to turn the clock back to the time where after returning from a tournament,they could go straight to Harjinder and sort out the flaws in their technique. In just a matter of time,they might have to soldier on without their guide.